Getty Images

Asian Cup wrap: Japan survives, Qatar wins

Leave a comment

In Asian Cup action earlier today, Group F got its group stage play under way, as one of the favorites was forced to hold on at the end.

Japan took on Turkmenistan in Abu Dhabi, and it was quite the wire-to-wire scare for one of the stronger teams in the field. Turkmenistan went in front on the game’s opening goal just before the half-hour mark as Arslanmurat Amanov unleashed a beautiful strike from outside the box.

It was Turkmenistan’s lead into halftime, but it wouldn’t last long out of the break as Werder Bremen striker Yuya Osako first brought Japan level in the 56th minute with a great move in the box before a tap-in four minutes later put them 2-1 in front. 20-year-old Ritsu Doan picked up the eventual winner, scoring in the 71st minute on a big deflection to put Japan up 3-1.

That would prove vital, as Turkmenistan halved the deficit through a penalty converted by 34-year-old Ahmet Atayev with just 11 minutes remaining, and while they fought for an equalizer, Japan held them off through the final whistle.

The three points would bring Japan level with Uzbekistan atop Group F, with Uzbekistan winning 2-1 over Oman on goals from Ahmedov Ofil and Eldor Shomurodov, with the latter’s winner coming in the 85th minute on a close-range effort inside the near-post that Oman goalkeeper Faiz Al-Rushaidi will want to have back.

Finally, Qatar put itself in a good early position with a 2-0 win over Lebanon on second-half goals from Bassam Hisham and Moez Ali. Hisham’s 65th minute strike came on a well-struck free-kick from just outside the top of the box, while Ali added on in the 79th minute with an open-net tap-in after pouncing on a save forced by Abdelaziz Hatim.

Siderov scores in the snow as Uzbekistan wins Asia U23 title

Twitter/@mcintinhos
1 Comment

CHANGZHOU, China (AP) Andrey Sidorov scored in the last minute of extra time as Uzbekistan beat Vietnam 2-1 to win the final of the AFC U23 Championship on Saturday.

[ MORE: West Ham upset, Brighton wins late in FA Cup roundup ]

In snowy conditions in Changzhou that made the game almost unplayable, Sidorov came off the bench after 118 minutes to volley in the winner two minutes later after a corner.

Rustamjon Ashurmatov opened the scoring after eight minutes for Uzbekistan but Nguyen Quang Hai curled home a free kick just before the break to keep Vietnam in contention.

After a halftime interval that lasted 50 minutes as the pitch was cleared of snow, the game looked to be heading toward penalties before Sidorov’s introduction.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

Photo by Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.

AFC World Cup qualifying: Two surprise nations on pace for Russia

Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A pair of surprises would be headed for Russia if Asian World Cup qualifying finishes the way it stands after four match days.

Because of that, we’d also have an incredible playoff match for the fifth spot with Japan and South Korea points off the pace.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifiers ]

The surprises come courtesy of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. The former some of us saw coming, the latter not-so-much.

Here’s how it all played out on Tuesday.

Iran 1-0 South Korea

Sardar Azmoun continued his insane run to start life as a senior international, as the 21-year-old Rostov striker netted his 16th goal in 22 caps for Iran, which is atop Group A while Korea Republic slips third.

Uzbekistan 2-0 China

The White Wolves rebounded from a home loss to Iran to clinch its third win of qualifying on two second half goals. Veteran Marat Bikmaev and 20-year-old Otabek Shukurov scored for the hosts.

Australia 1-1 Japan

Aston Villa midfielder Mile Jedinak converted a 52nd minute penalty to keep Australia in an automatic qualifying spot, one point ahead of Japan. The visitors opened the scoring through Hertha Berlin winger Genki Haraguchi in the fifth.

Saudi Arabia 3-0 United Arab Emirates

Both sides had the chance to take advantage of group powers Australia and Japan drawing, and it was the Saudis who got the job done on goals from three different players. The Green Falcons lead Group B with 10 points, while UAE is a point back of Japan and sits fourth.

Qatar 1-0 Syria

The lone goal of the game comes from a Hassan Al Haidous penalty.

Iraq 4-0 Thailand

Not one, not two, not three, but four goals came from 23-year-old Mohannad Abdul-Raheem, who plays for Al-Zawra’a SC in Iraq.

AFC World Cup qualifying: Ex-Merseyside duo leads Australia; Uzbekistan 2-0

Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Five AFC nations are unbeaten and three are perfect after two days of the third and final round of World Cup qualifying for Asia.

The top two teams in Groups A and B will win automatic qualification to Russia 2018 once 10 games have been played, with the first two in the books for all 12 teams as of Tuesday morning.

[ MORE: Patience for Pulisic ]

Who’s in the catbird seat and who has a ton of work to do? Read on…

Qatar 0-1 Uzbekistan

We told you the White Wolves were not to be slept on in our World Cup surprise teams post, and manager Samvel Babayan’s side is 2-0 thanks to consecutive 1-0 victories over Syria and Qatar. While admittedly two of the must-wins inside Group A, both jobs were handled. This one came courtesy an 86th minute goal from defender Egor Krimets of Beijing Guoan in the Chinese Super League.

UAE 0-1 Australia

After a road win over Japan, United Arab Emirates were hoping to put their stamp on Group B as upstarts. Unfortunately, there’s this fella named Tim Cahill who knows how to put himself in the right places at the right times. It was an ex-Merseyside connection that did the trick, as former Liverpool man Brad Smith — now with Bournemouth — played a terrific cross into the path of Cahill, whose 48th international goal stood as the winner.

Matchday 2 results
Iraq 1-2 Saudi Arabia
China 0-0 Iran
Syria 0-0 South Korea
Thailand 0-2 Japan